Get the Strap


Early influences encourage Ishan to reach for it all

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Ishan – born Oba Oseghali, the son of a Nigerian immigrant – was not yet in kindergarten when he heard the sounds that would transform his life.

“I remember my dad playing “In Da Club” by 50 Cent and “Juicy” by Biggie one day in the car when I was around four years old and falling in love with hip-hop,” he says. (The BBC called “Juicy” the greatest hip-hop track of all time, so his instincts were clearly on point.)

“How you can go from playful lyrics to real-life situations and your aspirations, the melodic beats with the hard-hitting drums…I could not get enough of rap music,” he told Validated magazine.

Ishan was 12 when he began writing raps as a way to deal with his thoughts, many of them complicated and traumatic for anyone so young.

He lived much of his childhood in Salem, New Hampshire, where he experienced racism from both children and adults, surprisingly among them his teachers, including a history teacher who one day separated him and the other two students of color into one area of the classroom, then “joked about how he had put all the blacks on their own side,” Ishan said, as if the teacher was gleefully revisiting the dreadful Jim Crow era.

“I remember being confused, I remember being sad, now I’m just mad,” he said in an eloquent, poetic speech he taped for a George Floyd rally at Boston’s City Hall since his work at Harvard during the pandemic did not allow him to physically attend.

Perhaps it was the untimely death of his childhood idol and influence, Biggie Smalls, or maybe it was watching his father work three jobs and still struggle to keep a roof over his family that has led to Ishan’s unabashed determination to accomplish his myriad goals.

He is currently attending Northeastern University on a full scholarship while working full-time as a research associate at Oncorus Immunology in nearby Cambridge.

Woven in between are two albums, seven singles, and his latest EP, “RANDUM ThOUGHTS,” a genre-twisting, upbeat EP featuring songs that sing to Ishan’s heart.

He’s busy, uber-busy, and often puts in 22-hour days to ensure that everything he touches is perfection. He makes it look easy, but a level of determination like that never is.

But music, no matter how successful Ishan becomes, will never be his entire life.

He has already applied to PhD programs at Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, his alma mater of Northeastern, and his top choice, MIT. He told Boston Culture magazine that if he enrolls in Northeastern’s PhD program, he will study medical microbiology, but if he attends any of the other schools, he will focus on immunology. It has been something he has wanted since he was 13 years old, one year after he began writing raps.

Clearly, Ishan has always been – and always will be – a multitasker.

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